The ‘Commercial Buildings’ ghost sign on Lavender Hill is back

We always like finding a ghost sign – those big faded advertisements in the ends of buildings that date back to before the era of poster boards and LED displays, advertising local businesses and products. There’s one at the junction of Lavender Hill and Kathleen Road, a building we’ve only written about once (in the context of the oddly short-lived Mrs Le’s restaurant being taken over by squatters) – where a very faded painted sign said ‘Commercial Buildings’, presumably from when these buildings (which would have been on the main road, between the railway station and the original Battersea town hall, back when Battersea was still a Borough) would have been used as offices rather than flats.

The building has been undergoing major work for some time now, to a pretty good standard by the look of it – including a substantial extension at the back, and up in to the roof.

The work has created a series of terraces at the back, as well as one at the front with a door opening out over the roof of the restaurant unit.

The work has also seen all the UPVC windows replaced higher quality sliding sash windows that are in keeping with what the building would have had when it was first built. All in all, this looks set to be quite an improvement for a building that had become rather tired and run down. The brickwork has all been cleaned, which sadly often means the end for ghost signs – and we assumed that the end would be near for the very faded ‘Commercial Buildings’ ghost sign. But in a slight surprise – the work has seen it carefully repainted and restored.

The old one was not especially visible – fortunately an article by Roy Reed on Ghost signs of Clapham includes a photo of the sign before work started, reproduced above, where it remained visible but had faded substantially. He also has photos of a good few other signs in the Lavender Hill area – our favourite of which is the one advertising Redfern rubber doormats in Wandsworth Road (pictured below), and has recently published a book of these signs, and an online map of where you can find them around central London. When the building with the Redfern advert was refurbished in to four flats a few years ago it was reported that it had previously been a rubber factory; we haven’t seen much other detail on it but the unusual structures at the back do suggest some sort of prior industrial or commercial use, before it became flats.

It’s maybe a bit of a shame to lose the faded character of Lavender Hill’s ‘Commercial Buildings’ ghost sign in favour of a new version – but at the same time give that the alternative in a big brick cleaning and re-pointing project tends to be complete disappearance, we’re pleased to see this one maintained and look forward to the scaffolding coming down.

Posted in Curiosities, Environment, Local history | Leave a comment

The Cedars Road Estate: A tale of two ambitious architects

Estate agents all love the Shaftesbury Estate – and it’s easy to see why, with hundreds of oh-so-desirable little cottages just waiting to be snapped up by well-heeled buyers. There’s a lot less said about our other estates like the Cedars Road Estate, at the eastern end of Lavender Hill. But there’s rather more to it than meets the eye, and while it may not have Victorian charm, it’s been a remarkably successful development we felt it was time to look at in our occasional local history series.

The Cedars Road Estate isn’t the first thing built on the Cedars Road. The original Cedars Road was a row of very large and grand detached houses, with generously sized front and back gardens (pictured above). These were built by local resident and Victorian property developer James Knowles, and were the first part of what he wanted be a much larger development called the Park Town Estate, going most of the way to the river and directly connecting Clapham Common with Chelsea Bridge.

James was building an extremely high-end development, and doing it at considerable cost. His aim was to create a really upmarket ‘Belgravia of the South’ neighbourhood, that would have rivalled parts of Chelsea.

The two large blocks of what were originally really giant terraces of seven-storey townhouses at the south end of Cedars Road, facing the Common and with their own separate stable blocks, set the scene for the development as a whole, and are still probably the largest terraced houses ever built in Clapham or Battersea.

No self respecting estate at the time could be built without its own Church, and half way along Cedars Road roughly where 190 Cedars Road stands today, James had built St Saviour’s Church as its grand centrepiece – pictured above in a photo from Lambeth Borough Archives. It started life in 1864 as chapel of ease (a sort of outpost, where a nearby Church – in this case Holy Trinity – would run services for those who struggled to make it to the main church), going on to become a fully-fledged Parish Church in 1876.

As the map extract shows, these really were large houses with large gardens. Cedars Road was built in style, and so were some of the show homes half way along the south stretch of Queenstown Road (around the church). The next phase of the project was supposed to see a similar sort of development built along Queenstown Road and in the Queenstown Diamond – and James acquired a huge plot of land to continue the development, shown in grey on the map below.

Everything looked good for this upmarket new neighbourhood, with its grand houses and big green spaces far from the crowds north of the river. But things didn’t go to plan for James – thanks to the railway builders. They were pretty powerful and had the ability to compulsorily purchase land, and did just that to buy the top end of James’ huge estate, and buy a vast tangle of railways and bridges near Queenstown Road station. This was a huge headache for James – because it chopped up the northern end of his large estate in to several rather useless small triangles, but above all because it introduced a messy set of criss-crossing railway bridges right in the middle of the grand avenue he had planned between the estate and Chelsea, ushering in precisely the sort of smoke, noise and industrial uses that they had tried to avoid. He battled the railways or as long as he could, but quickly realised that rather than catering to the upper classes, his grand development was going to be in the middle of a dense industrial area – and that he’d need a new plan if he was to make any money out of it. The original plans for the buildings along Queenstown Road were radically redesigned to replace grand mansion terraces with red-brick blocks of flats, and the streets around to small terraces. The way the Park Town estate to the north ultimately got built is a fascinating story that we’ll cover in a future article (and it’s well worth a look at Silver Linings, a lockdown project by local architects daab design who created a guided walk round the estate).

But for the following 60 years the Cedars Road remained – as an impressive street that somehow didn’t fit in with its neighbours, and a sign of what this corner of Battersea might had been without the railways. These large houses in an otherwise unglamorous bit of town had not attracted the wealthy residents James had originally envisaged, and with time they became increasingly occupied by other uses. The photo above shows 3 Cedars Road in about 1930 – which by then was in use as the Gregg School. Number 9 was an auxiliary military hospital, while three houses half way down the road were joined together as one large institution – pictured below – and became the Cedar’s Road Home Institution for the Elderly (also known as Cedar’s Lodge), run by London County Council to provide a home for elderly men as part of its work to care for the poor. These three are still in place; for some years they were a ‘wet’ hostel for recovering alcoholics, which acquired a bit of a local reputation as a magnet for antisocial behaviour. The houses remain part of the charity but have been converted to self contained flats, with more peaceful residents.

We have often seen it reported that the Cedars Estate took on so much damage in the second World War that it had to be destroyed. But this was one of the first surprises of writing this article: in the map below, drawn up by Ordnance Survey soon after the end of the war, we have highlighted the bombsites – where buildings were destroyed – in yellow. There are a pair either side of the corner of Cedars Road and Lavender Hill, which remained empty for several decades before being redeveloped as the buildings that now house Sainsbury’s and Caffe Nero. There was also extensive damage further along Lavender Hill, in what is now the Gideon Road Estate.

But the striking thing is that most of Cedars Road survived the war. Number 31 is a Ruin, and others will have seen some damage – but most of the street is clearly still standing. The most notable casualty was St Saviours, James Knowles’ first church, which is shown as a distinctly Church-shaped ‘ruin’ below. But there’s a bit of an open question as to what led the London County Council to pick this particular street in the early 1960s as a redevelopment site, as they started to rapidly buy up properties along Cedars Road and Victoria Rise – with plans to build a major new housing estate.

The houses had large gardens and the Council presumably realised it could fit a lot more flats in the space with a new building. This wasn’t the expensive bit of London it is now, and we understand that these houses which were a mixture of residential, institutional and business uses, weren’t in the best condition – so acquiring the buildings may not have been especially difficult. But the Council’s level of ambition was clearly enormous and it’s still quite impressive to compare the map above with the new estate below, as someone managed to get hold of almost sixty houses to clear enough space for the new estate – every house in the street apart and number 190 (which is mysteriously still standing, albeit much modified) and four houses (three of which are the old Cedars Lodge) on the west of Cedars Road.

This is also where our second ambitious architect enters the story. Local authorities aren’t the place you go now to see ambitious and creative building work – but in the early 1960s things were very different, and places like the Greater London Council were very actively developing huge new areas of housing, aiming to replace the tired and run down housing that covered much of London with something better. Colin Lucas – pictured – was an architect who had started his career building some impressive private houses, and could no doubt have carried on doing so, earning good fees and building his personal reputation – but he instead decided to join the Greater London Council’s architects department to work on the big new housing estate, working mostly anonymously in a bigger organisation, because he believed that building better social housing would enhance people’s lives.

By the time the Council was assembling the land at Cedars Road Colin’s group had already completed the ambitious (and now Grade II* listed) Alton Estate, which includes a series of giant blocks overlooking Richmond Park modelled on Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier‘s landmark building in Marseille. The Alton Estate had been built on a large open piece of land where anything was possible – but here at Cedars Road Colin was presented with a more complicated and oddly-shaped plot, crossed by two existing roads, scattered with large trees, and with a layout broken up by several buildings the Council hadn’t managed to get hold of – so he tried something a bit different.

Colin didn’t develop this single-handedly: Most of the estate was designed by architects Roy Stout and Patrick Litchfield, working in Colin Lucas’ architecture group within the Council – a duo who had also built a good number of interesting and unusual houses and flats.

Despite having 382 flats, the resulting estate was deliberately built in a low-rise and intimate scale, with small clusters of flats each with their own layout grouped round courtyards, echoing the individual houses they replaced.

Many of the flats are duplexes, spread across 61 interconnected three- and four-storey blocks of flats, many of which are dual-aspect. Most of the flats are duplex (two storey), but there are also a handful of blocks with single-storey smaller flats, as well as a entire terrace of sixteen more accessible bungalows with gardens at Lyncott Crescent on the western side of the estate.

From the moment it opened in 1966, the estate was a success: generously sized flats built with solid materials, lots of natural light, and around half of the flats having their own private outdoor gardens in addition to the generous public green paces.

The estate fitted together really well – with an impressively large central garden area that many of the flats have direct access to. By designing the estate around many of the 60-year-old trees from James’ original back gardens, rather than taking the easier path of cutting everything down and starting again, they had given the estate some immediate character.

Colin is also the man behind some of Battersea’s most recognisable tower blocks: working with Philip Bottomley, he developed a tower block plan that had three floors of two-bed flats, followed by a floor of one-bed flats, repeated five times; two of these towers are shown below in the Somerset Estate near Battersea Square. These buildings used the same robust materials – concrete and brick – as Cedars Road, and are in each case surrounded by lower-rise three- and four-storey buildings that definitely have something in common with Cedars Road; and again the generous spaces and good natural light mean these towers have remained popular.

More clusters of this design were built near Wandsworth Road station (the Durrington and Amesbury towers – pictured below), as well as in Canada Water, and a huge cluster in Camberwell. Colin was clearly happy to repeat what worked, and refine what didn’t, and looking at the lower-rise parts of these estates it’s clear that he liked the design of Cedars Road’s concrete-roofed and ridiculously robust storage sheds, as they are exactly the same – as is his preference for clusters of flats in courtyards rather than corridors and passageways.

Not everything Colin built worked: his next big project was the Ferrier Estate in Kidbrooke, which was frankly a disaster. Just like Cedars Road, the Ferrier was huge and ambitious, but unlike Cedars Road it had none of the careful planning of spaces and flats that created a community in Cedars Road, and it became a notorious sink estate, plagued by crime. The Ferrier Estate has already been completely demolished.

Even Cedars Road has design faults – but they’re minor ones. While a good number of arched garages were carefully incorporated in to the design (as well as a generous number of ground-level storage sheds that can be rented by residents), it soon became apparent that demand had been underestimated and more were needed. A large group of rather shoddy, cheaply-built garages was therefore added in a rather haphazard courtyard in Wilderness Mews at the eastern edge of the estate, replacing what had (for the previous decade or so) been a rather short-lived British legion Clubhouse, whose original design is pictured below (from the surprisingly comprehensive Lambeth archives).

These garages gradually became a rather tight fit for modern cars, and the whole garage area now feels like a waste of space, and a missed opportunity to have built something more like the rest of the estate. Tellingly, the remote-feeling and poorly-laid-out garage area has needed CCTV while the rest of the estate hasn’t really had any problems.

But 55 years after it was built, there’s no doubt that Cedars Road was a complete success: carefully designed accommodation that has quietly provided a good place to live. It’s always been a popular estate, and a remarkably large proportion of the flats – about half of the total – have been bought by former tenants; a wise investment given that the two bed flats now sell for over half a million pounds.

Its location was always an advantage, being in what has become an ever more desirable bit of London just a stones’ throw from Clapham Common. Being sandwiched right between two consistently popular primary schools, Macaulay CofE and the unusual part-state, part-private, bilingual Wix school just across the borough boundary, has also been attractive to young families.

Today Cedars Road is run as a tenant management organisation, and compared to many of the other estates in Lambeth the high standard of maintenance is immediately apparent, with weekly gardeners and proper green landscaping. There’s a fully updated and well-maintained childrens’ playground, a basketball court, and a residents’ organic garden where plots are available to hire. A few years ago the entire estate was fitted with an external insulation layer to improve its efficiency; this was a slight shame in that it hid the original high quality white brick that had been used throughout the design, but it did make the estate cheaper to run. There’s been a steady flow of building improvements, including service upgrades, new boilers and repaving works. All in all the Cedars Road Estate may not be as well known as some of the others in Battersea – but it’s no ordinary estate, and that’s testament to James Knowles’ vision that never really came to pass, and Colin Lucas and his team’s vision that did – which have given generations of residents a good place to live.

Posted in Housing, Local history, Street by street | 4 Comments

Tough times at No Boring Beer

It’s not an easy time to be in retail. Budgets are squeezed, and costs are up – especially gas & electricity. And until recently, businesses were particularly in the firing line as they have not benefitted from the price caps applied to householders: stories are emerging everywhere of stratospheric estimates for small traders. And even with Lavender Hill probably in a better place than most thanks to a significant number of high earners living nearby who are likely to be able to keep spending, this is hitting our traders. Case in point: No Boring Beer, who opened a year ago at 22 Lavender Hill (and who we wrote about before and after they opened). A notice now confirms that energy prices may be the straw that breaks the business’s back, with a closure date pencilled in of 24th September, mainly as the (presumably one-year-after-opening) electricity contract renewal costs just aren’t sustainable.

There may still be hope, and the team at No Boring Beer is clearly working to see what is possible. And things may be moving in a helpful direction in Government: new PM Liz Truss gave an energy announcement as part of her very first actions as Prime Minister, declaring that a new energy price cap for homes and (for the first time) businesses will be set from 1st October. This is a relief after a turbulent time that had led to business owners fearing the worst. During her speech, the new PM supported businesses and public bodies giving them the “equivalent support” to what households woudl receive for the next six months. This will still represent a sizeable cost increase for many (and what happens after the winter in six months’ time remains uncertain) – but the completely ridiculous prices we have seen small businesses being quoted in the news recently may not materialise. 

In the meantime – No Boring Beer is still open and needs our support. They are a small business created by beer enthusiasts Nikita and Roman; who already ran two other shops in south London – in an arch in the square next to Deptford station, and one on Tower Bridge Road. Their beer tastes are clearly adventurous – with over 200 beers from local breweries and a large seasonal beer assortment. They’re not just selling bottled & canned beer either, with rotating draught lines in all three shops.

There’s a pretty eclectic mix of ales, lagers and ciders, and No Boring Beer has found a loyal audience in Lavender Hill. Initially one side of the lavender Hill shop was dedicated to ambient ales and wines, and the other to a large assortment of canned ales, lagers and ciders – pictured above – but the layout has evolved to give more room for tasting, as well as to create a small outdoor seating area. A selection of beers on tap is on offer to refill growlers (reusable beer bottles).

We hope a solution can be found and they can keep going – particularly as we see an ever expanding number of small local breweries, including established players Mondo and Sambrooks, and joined by the Distortion Brewing Company near Wandsworth Road station, Belleville Brewing Co at Wandsworth Common, and the very smart Battersea Brewery in the power station complex. And that’s far from the only Battersea alcoholic beverage business, with the likes of the Blackbook winery and the Doghouse Distillery both hidden away among the railways near Queenstown Road. We still plan to run a future article on these.

No Boring Beer, at 22 Lavender Hill SW11. Open in the afternoon from Wednesday to Saturday.

Posted in Business, Politics, Retail | 2 Comments

New occupant of the old Cornerstone Bookshop: Thermomix

Back in 2021 we wrote an article about the end of long-running Christian bookstore The Corner Stone, which was one of the street’s longest standing shops until owner Ulrike Warner decided to call it a day and head for a well earned retirement. The premises were put up to let for around £90,000 a year by Bells (a local estate agent who specialise in commercial property) and were quickly snapped up. Work got going to give the somewhat dilapidated premises the makeover it had needed for a while, with new double glazing, flooring, air conditioning, and a complete rewire – pretty much everything had to be replaced. The exterior has also seen a bit of a repaint, but remains much the same design – we had expected the right hand to be brought level with the pavement when new windows were installed, but they have chosen to keep the classic 1960s angled shop front in place.

And we now know who is occupying the store: at some point next week Thermomix, a maker of high-end kitchen mixers which can also cook food, as well as tell you what to do to make specific meals, will open this as their demonstration and training kitchen, showing them off to prospective buyers as well as running classes on how to make the most of them for people who already have one. The shop is being fitted out with a large counter, plenty of display space, and all the things you’d need to be able to cook.

Thermomix is quite an interesting business. The firm doesn’t sell from mainstream retailers, and is instead only sold by self employed agents – ‘Thermomix Consultants’ – who manage and run operations in particular areas, in return for a commission on sales. This may remind readers of the ‘multi level marketing’ favoured by Avon in cosmetics, and a variety of more dubious nutritional supplement businesses that look more like pyramid schemes. That said, in Thermomix’s case it seems a more structured setup that is closer to a franchise business, with fixed pricing for the product (at the time of writing, precisely £1,189) and commission rates for the consultants. The shops like the one opening on Lavender Hill are also about making sure that anyone who spends what is, by any reckoning, a pretty hefty sum on one of the mixers gets the most out of it, and keeps using it in the long term – and from what we’ve seen from people who have one, both the products and the after sales classes are very popular and the ‘word of mouth’ effect from satisfied customers is strong.

There’s no debate about the quality of the mixers themselves, which have been sold since the 1970s, and – many iterations and developments later – continue to be made in France and Germany. Unlike ordinary food processors they can heat food as well (up to 120°C), they have a built in weighing scale, and they have a screen to access a large online recipe catalogues, with the ability to order the ingredients you’ll need for specific foods. Thermomix is a part of Vorwerk, maker of arguably the best vacuum cleaners in the business. Their after sales service is reputedly second to none, and you can expect a Thermomix to last a very long time. Which is what you’d expect for something costing £1,189!

This isn’t a new venture for this Thermomix team: they have been trading from premises at Chelsea Harbour for a good few years. We can see why they’re moving: Chelsea Harbour is a very unusual bit of London, with numerous flats and a marina, but also an enormous 1980s glass-roofed ‘Mall’ that no-one has ever really heard of, despite it being a centrepiece of what was the biggest single construction projects in the UK for decades. It was initially designed as a centre for general upmarket shopping and entertainment, but it completely failed within just a few years with almost all the shops and restaurants closing, mostly because of the remoteness of the site. It has since found a new purpose as the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, a large cluster of specialised design-focussed businesses who run showrooms in what had originally been expected to be shops and restaurants, while another building next door houses mostly offices (and the previous Thermomix studio). However we can imagine that the sheer remoteness and quietness of the site will have been problematic for a business like Thermomix, which is a huge contrast with Lavender Hill.

Update: Works are now complete, with lots of Thermomixes in place and opening scheduled for the 3rd October.

Thermomix South London Branch Studio, 299-301 Lavender Hill, London SW11 1TN.

Posted in Business, Retail | 1 Comment

A refresh for Clapham Baptist Church’s mural

It’d be fair to say the mural along the side of Clapham Baptist Church, at the eastern end of Lavender Hill, has seen better days. It’s been there for a good few years and has done remarkably well considering it’s in a difficult spot, exposed to pollution, a small amount of graffiti and vandalism, and the inevitable gradual effect of crowds of people waiting for buses along this stretch of pavement – certainly compared to the other mural along Lavender Hill, the Tree of Life which we have written about a while ago. The Baptist Church’s mural brightens up what would otherwise be a pretty bleak part of the building – but some of it does now need a bit of TLC.

Which is why we’re pleased to see there are plans to refresh and rejuvenate it, as well as developing a community garden. The photo above is one of a series of leaflets distributed to local businesses, and a Zoom call was held to discuss the new project.

The mural itself is well developed and features a series of key Biblical events – with Adam and Eve (and the serpent) making an appearance in a Garden of Eden that includes a large pink flamingo right at the start, as well as Noah’s Ark and the Crucifixion – although one of the more curious aspects of the current mural is that it seems to never have been quite finished! As our photo below shows, the sketches for some of the faces are still there in pencil.

The small plaque visible in the photo above is ‘a gift to those who wait’ from the Church; we’re not sure if it is a reference to the mural itself or maybe also (given the position of the plaque) to a long lost bench. It also looks as though the mural was originally planned to be longer, and run the full length of the building – but the end nearest Tesco has been left as a white undercoat from the beginning (now very much showing the effect of traffic pollution where cars wait for the lights), and could sorely do with a bit more colour and interest.

It’s easy to see how a bit more work on the existing mural could turn this in to the feature – improving the whole look of this stretch of pavement. Which is why we’re pleased to see the enthusiasm for this at Clapham Baptist Church.

We sadly weren’t able to make the introductory talk – but we’ll keep you posted if we hear more about the plans.

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Another new pub for Clapham Junction

Another new pub is being developed at Clapham Junction. A couple of months ago we wrote about Albion & East who will be taking over the ground floor corner of Arding & Hobbs (ex-Debenhams) – and now we hear that Network Rail, are developing another pub just along the road, in the original station building on St Johns Hill. In doing so they will open up the long-lost station entrance in our photo above, which has been closed to for decades, as the entrance to the new venue.

Someone in Network Rail has clearly been having a good look at the station layout and how to use the buildings more effectively, as it’s quite a clever proposal. The photos above are drawn from the planning application, and they give a rare glimpse in to an area of the station that is normally only accessible to employees – revealing quite a characterful space complete with arched vaults, big beams, and a lot of old ironmongery, that could create a decent pub in the right hands. Obviously there is still some way to go until this could welcome its first customers: the whole building was closed to the public for years, and then more recently the upper level of the building was converted to a more accessible entrance – which has left this part of the station more or less abandoned for decades. The diagram below shows the current layout of the ground floor – with blue being the building, and green being the open air yard next to it. At the moment most of the internal space is occupied by a series of metal lockup containers – for the shops in the station and on the footbridge, for the station itself – and skips and rubbish storage. There’s also a small electrical substation and an emergency generator.

At the bottom of the picture (numbered ‘6‘) – and right next to the main doors – is a staircase, that would have led to the upper floor of the station, and this would been a very busy staircase at one time! The diagram below shows why, as this used to be the main entrance to the whole station. Passengers would head through the left hand or right hand doors (the big ones) and then up a big grand double set of stairs from the two doors that would join together on a landing before heading straight to the footbridge. The symmetrical sister staircase (not drawn) is where ‘7‘ is in the diagram.

The slightly smaller middle entrance didn’t lead to the staircase, and instead ducked underneath to lead to the parcels office on the ground floor. What would have been a big hole in the floor where the main staircase came up from the lower level has long been filled in – but surprisingly the old staircase still exists on the lower level, and the plans are for it to be removed – the red outlines in the diagram below (which shows the inside view) looking towards St Johns Hill) helps explain the layout.

The plans are for about half of the ground floor area to be used as the new pub, with the back section still kept in use as storage of the shops (but organised in a more efficient way to use the space better). There is an open yard next to the pub, which on the face of it could have been a useful outside area for the new pub – but we have to remember that this is also a working railway station, and that area will be kept as part of the back-of-house station area to accommodate odds and sods including an electrical generator, a rubbish compactor, plant, and two electricity substations, space for a large skip, parking for a maintenance van. It’ll nonetheless leave a decent amount of space for the new pub at 3455 square feet, which (as a guide for those less used to square footages) is just a bit bigger than a typical Tesco Metro / Sainsbury’s Local. The diagram below shows the ‘pub’ area, in pink – which includes a whole row of brick alcoves – and the reorganised storage area for the shops in blue.

The central one of the three old wooden doors leading to St Johns Hill will be converted to a window, with the other two being replaced with glazed doors, to let some light in to the space. The diagram below shows the proposed windows in yellow. There are currently also some windows along the wall, in to the service yard, and slightly surprisingly the plans are for these to be bricked up as part of the development. They wouldn’t have given the most amazing view but one could imagine that the ability to have any light at all would be a small bonus.

The right hand of the diagram above also shows the planned location of a new and smarter-looking gate to the yard next door (labelled ‘3’), which makes sense as the current rather cheap-looking industrial fence (which has temporarily been covered with a hoarding) isn’t the best look for Network Rail if they;re trying to attract a high-paying tenant next door. The new gate will feature “an abstract design that draws upon the status of Clapham Junction as a major train station that is the busiest station in the UK”.

We broadly welcome this proposal and don’t expect it will be controversial in planning terms – it opens up a more-or-less wasted space to public use, with some fairly minor changes to a local heritage building, and by creating a new business right in the heart of the town centre it adds to the overall offer of the high street. From a heritage perspective the old ironwork will be largely unchanged, and while the current wooden doors will be lost, there are hopes that they can be used as a decorative wall panels somewhere inside the new venue. More generally – with government funding now only really being given to the North of England as part of the ‘Levelling up agenda‘, Network Rail needs to make the most of its property assets, and generate income to pay for the myriad series of small works that keep its stations running, and investing in underused spaces like this is a good way of doing it (the total cost of the works is described as ‘up to £2m’).

We don’t yet know who will actually be running the pub, or where it will sit on the range between mostly-drinks and mostly-food; presumably once they have planning permission Network Rail wil go out to see who ‘s interested in leasing the site, and we suspect that in such a busy spot – even with several other pubs, bars and restaurants pretty much on their doorstep – they won’t have too much trouble finding a tenant. There’s currently a planning application to make the various building changes and in doing so change this space to a “drinking establishment, public house, wine bar or drinking establishment”, and it is currently open for comment (until the 18th August at the time of writing) – if you do want to offer any comment on these plans, head to the Wandsworth planning website and search for planning application number 2022/1904.

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Queenstown Road station’s new entrance – progress at last?

It’s taken a while – but plans may finally be getting rolling to create the second entrance to Queenstown Road station. The Battersea Exchange development that’s funding it has been finished for some years now, and we have been writing the occasional post about it for some time – but nothing happened on the station works. They essentially mean a new entrance will be created at the back of the station building (which is the one outlined yellow in this photo) –

It was designed to improve transport access to the new flat, so residents can get to the station without having to walk along busy and traficky section of Queenstown Road. It links the station more directly to the school in the development and Patcham Terrace, which is currently a rather isolated near-dead-end road where the small shops and offices under the railway arches have been slow to let. The plans will also allow passage through the station (during opening hours) for non-ticketholders, which means people heading from (say) the Shaftesbury estate can ‘cut the corner’ by going through the foyer of Queenstown Road (shown in yellow below) and get through to Battersea Park station.

After a very long silence, where we really wondered if the development would ever proceed – a new planning application has just been submitted, updating the original plans for the works (which go all the way back to 2014!) to current railway standards. Specifically, application number 2022/1325 includes the planned layouts, and a new entrance leading on to Patcham terrace – pictured below.

These works are the final connection in the overall masterplan for the Battersea Exchange development, whose construction ran from early 2015 to December 2020. It’s also the last of the ‘Section 106’ obligations for the developers – the things they agree to fund in the surrounding area as part of the development – before they can finally sign off on what has proved a pretty successful project overall, with a very efficient use of the land around the viaducts that seems to have sold well and which brought all sorts of unusual little plots of railway land back in to productive use.

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There has been a little bit of cost-cutting along the way: the original plans included a wheelchair lift to handle the change in levels, which is no longer being included (so wheelchair users will need to keep using the Queenstown Road exit). We understand this is an ask from National Rail rather than cost cutting by the developers, TaylorWimpey – ostensibly to make the staircase wide enough, but one could maybe imagine it’s also designed to keep maintenance costs down. On the plus side, there’ll be a new disabled-accessible WC, which will be linked from the station foyer.

A few other minor changes are being made compared to the initial plans, including not bothering to have a door at the bottom of the stairs (which seems fairly sensible – bearing in mind that the station is pretty much open air anyway and there’ll be a security gate at the top of the steps). A small glass shelter will be included at the bottom of the steps to keep rain out of the station building. The floorplan diagram below shows the new access route in yellow (with Queenstown Road entrance at the bottom of the photo), and the new Patcham Terrace entrance at the top.

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Given that a series of very similar plans have already been approved over the years none of this is likely to be controversial from a planning perspective – but because the whole of the station (including the scruffy and little-seen rear yard) is a listed building, the finer details matter and a new planning application is needed before works can start. This photo shows the currently-rather-messy back yard of the station as it is now, as seen from the new road Patcham Terrace (i.e. the right hand side of the yellow square in the map above). The new entrance will be at the back left, which means opening up a new door in the building. There’s a bit of a height change as well (about ten steps).

This photo shows the current ticket hall – the new way through will emerge where the left hand white door is now, just to the left of the ticket machines.

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Precise timings for the works are still uncertain – but the fact that updated plans have gone in (again) is a good sign that the project is not completely forgotten, and still on track to happen at some point. As a relatively cheap project with obvious benefits for Taylor Wimpey’s development (making it have rather better access, especially for the new office and retail units), and some benefits for Network Rail in terms of general station access, it seems likely that this will now go ahead.

Posted in Planning, Street by street, Transport, Useful to know | 2 Comments

The 1960s canopy around Clapham Junction’s Arding & Hobbs building is coming down

Works are really gathering pace on Clapham Junction’s Arding & Hobbs redevelopment – with the pavement canopy being removed right around the building. It’s a feature many people assume was an original part of the building – but it was actually added in the 1970s as part of a modernisation that tried to make the ground floor look more like the fashions of the time. Our photo below shows a sliced-off section, and in the background, a section still in place above the entrance to T.K. Maxx, propped up by scaffolding.

Here’s a photo comparing with a few weeks earlier, before the work started to remove the canopy.

The most striking feature of these works is just how much the canopy reduced the height of the windows on the ground floor. As sections are chopped off the building, we can see that it had rather an unusual construction: a series of large horizontal girders running along inside the old windows, propping up more large girders angled over the pavement. And above the girders, at least another foot of what had originally been window was also blocked off, as can be seen in the photo below. The windows would originally have gone right up to the top of the stonework, but after the canopy was built they only ran up to the very bottom of the photo. Also visible is an asbestos warning sign – ‘DANGER ASBESTOS CANOPY’ – which must have been another headache for the builders.

This diagram, from the planning docu,ents for W.RE’s refurbishment works, shows the design of the canopy, and what is envisaged as the replacement.

When the works are complete, the facade will end up looking much more like the original design, shown below (photo courtesy the London Picture Archive) –

It makes quite a difference to the look of the building – which becomes a lot more visible from the pavement compared to the previous view below. The canopy had originally had fully-lit sections above all the main entrances, and also lights right around the outer edge that hadn’t worked for a good few years (other than a brief attempt to resuscitate them in the late 2000s). It’s fair to say that while canopies like this were very much the style for mid century department stores, and this one has certainly given several decades of service as a shelter from the rain, fashions have moved on.

The plan is for awning blinds to be reinstated above the windows, echoing those that are visible on historic photographs of the building (and which still work on a scattering of Clapham Junction’s most well preserved shopfronts).

Meanwhile in T.K. Maxx (which is not affected by the building works around it and will continue to trade once the new development is finished), a series of what look like minor leaks has led to several ceiling tiles being removed – and if you look closely, you can see the original high ceilings and the decorative plaster coving is still in place and in surprisingly good condition:

Here’s a closer view. It’s similar to what is still on display in the homewares section on the upper floor, which doesn’t have a suspended ceiling. We’re not sure why the fit-out didn’t take the same approach in the rest of the store as the ceiling looks like all it really needs is a coat of paint.

Two final photos: one of the building increasingly covered in scaffolding, showing works underway on the cupola –

And one at the back, showing restoration work getting underway on the brickwork and windows.

A large crane also made an appearance on the 11th June, to help with the construction of the new roof levels.

It’s good to see this ongoing work to restore the building. For more on the ongoing works at Arding & Hobbs, see our recent article on the first confirmed tenants after the works, another on the building work that is going on at the roof level, and our previous detailed article on the overall plans to redevelop the building – adding two floors to the roof and convert the upper levels to office space.

Posted in Arding & Hobbs, Business, Planning | Leave a comment

A bold new look for Khan’s Indian restaurant

Khan’s has been around for ages! One of the longest standing restaurants on Lavender Hill, noted for relatively low-fat cuisine free of artificial colourings, an approach which they adopted ahead of its time. Along with its sister restaurant in Epsom, Khan’s has served generations of residents with decent food in relatively simple surroundings.

But after the best part of two decades, there’s no denying that the restaurant itself had started to look past its best. The sign had lost a few letters, the boast that the premises were ‘Fully Air Conditioned’ was increasingly reminiscent of hotels boasting of “Colour TV”, and the interior was tired with worn flooring and a general decor that (despite the occasional minor update) had been overtaken by its neighbours – all in all, it needed a bit of a spruce up.

And that’s exactly what Khan’s has just done. With a new owner and what looks like quite a significant amount of investment, it has – over a few months – had a comprehensive makeover. Works started quietly with new bathrooms and work on the bar, but have really ramped up over the last month with new high-gloss flooring, a new backlit bar, new walls and ceiling, a huge amount of floral decoration, a smarter more streamlined counter, a complete replacement of the furniture (which now includes stone-and-brass tables and far more comfortable chairs), have had quite an impact. There’s been a bit of minor building work too, as the pillars that used to rather get in the way have gone, to open the space up properly.

There’s also a completely new shopfront – replacing the increasingly creaky wooden-framed doors and windows with a fully-glazed affair, which looks quite a bit better from the street. And a new name, of sorts – as Khan’s Restaurant has become Blossom by Khan’s. And we’re pleased to report Khan’s are still providing a very decent curry! The specialities are the main event, with some quite interesting options that do go a little off the beaten track – albeit the core options are also available, as well as a few milder curries (and proper home-cooked breads) that are appreciated by your author’s resident pre-schooler.

It’s good to see this investment, which has created something much more contemporary, and in comprehensively dealing with the somewhat tired premises that were increasingly becoming their Achilles’ heel, should set Blossom by Khan’s up for a good few years.

Blossom by Khan’s. 159 Lavender Hill, Battersea SW11 5QH. And as we always say – if you live nearby and have the time to collect, calling for a takeaway in person’s a better way of supporting your local traders than paying a 34% cut to a company in California! 020 7978 4455.

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Several new cycle sheds on the streets & estates around Lavender Hill

Last summer a whole bundle of new on-street cycle hangars were announced, with 74 planned for streets and another 15 for estates across Wandsworth. They’re useful facilities, in a borough with one of the highest numbers of cycle commuters in the country, but also one where many struggle to find space to fit bikes in small flats, and even those who can may fear the inevitable loss of deposits that comes with scuffed walls and carrying cycles up to the top floor.

They’re typically a fairly solid metal structure sitting on the road or the pavement that can hold six bikes, and keep them dry and reasonably safe from theft. Spaces within these cycle hangars are usually in very high demand: as at the time of writing all of the on-street hangars in Wandsworth are fully booked – and while there are a few hundred more in other boroughs (shown inCyclehoop’s map below), everything within a five mile radius is also full! Those who live on or near the location of the hangars are usually prioritised in the queue, not that this would make much difference until a few of the new ones come online. The larger hangars on the estates, like the one above, have decent availability for the time being (but are restricted to estate residents).

There have been a lot of calls for more secure cycle storage – but as installations have got going there have also been complaints that the proposed new hangars are more focussed on the north and east of the borough, with only a scattering proposed for Putney and Roehampton. That said – areas like Lavender Hill do seem to be the areas with the highest concentration of both cycle commuting and smaller flats and houses. Wandsworth’s own selection process for locations was a mix of locations that have had a lot of historic requests for storage facilities in a public consultation they ran a couple of years ago (which saw over 500 requests for hangars), and locations with a high proportion of residents who don’t have garages / gardens / houses & flats large enough to store bikes; with a further filter to make sure that locations won’t look ugly or cause road safety issues by blocking views at junctions. Some of the nearby shortlisted locations include Queenstown Road; as well as Gowrie, Taybridge, Jedburgh, Thirsk band Sugden Roads on Clapham Common Northside; and Eckstein Road near the station.

We’ve recently seen one appear on Queenstown Road (tactically installed on an unusually wide bit of pavement to avoid losing parking spaces), and a larger one has also now appeared in the Gideon Road Estate, capable of housing at least a dozen cycles – pictured above. The latter is located on one of the concrete platforms that used to house storage sheds that were rented to residents of the flats (which were removed because they weren’t really being used for storage, but the hidden passageways between them were giving cover for crime and other troublesome activities). There’s also an existing one at the very southern end of Ashley Crescent, which has long been a bit of a mystery as it seems to have its own resident family of stray cats!

The hangars cost £2500 to buy and install; which Wandsworth has mostly got from a TfL centralised cycling budget. The process for renting a space in one of the on-street Bikehangars is managed by a company called CycleHoop, who manage similar facilities for 26 local authorities including several London boroughs. There’s an annual fee of £72 (and a key deposit of £25) – which gives you a specific numbered space in a specific hangar. The fee covers administration, managing access, and occasional cleaning and maintenance; but not the original construction cost. Renting one in Lambeth is a fair bit cheaper, at $42 a year – because they subsidise the running costs as well as the original construction costs, whereas Wandsworth only covers the initial construction costs. To hire a space in one of the on-street hangars visit CycleHoop.

While we’re on the subject of the concrete platforms in the Gideon Road estate – it’s good to see one of these long-abandoned concrete platforms finally used. But there are still two more of these huge platforms just left there, years after the sheds were removed – and as what is actually quite a decent little bit of land, with big trees and set back and slightly down from the road to shelter it from traffic, and plenty of space to not be right next to any flats, these could be used as an ideal ready-made base for an outdoor gym (like the ones installed at the edges of Clapham Common – shown below).

Or maybe even a supplement to the existing childrens’ playground that is buried rather deeper in the Gideon Road estate, in a neighbourhood that is becoming more and more populated and which is relatively lacking in green space.

It’s quite surprising to think that the relatively small space with its concrete platforms is one of the largest open spaces in the whole area – but it’s a side effect of the Shaftesbury Estate’s originally-planned central square, Brassey Square, never having been delivered, which left the whole of the Shaftesbury estate lacking any open space at all.

The Gideon Road estate did a bit better in this regard – but as the architects’ original plans (shown in the picture above) make clear, while it was built with quite a lot of open space, most of it was car parking and the rest was scattered in lots of tiny little patches that tend to be overshadowed by buildings set at right angles to it. This means that with the exception of the playground, most of of its open spaces aren’t used much at all, and tend to suffer from a lot of fly tipping. The new cycle shed is a clever place to put the bike store, it’s good to see some of this space in use again – and maybe the remaining concrete platforms will also be able to find a new purpose that improves the estate as a whole.

Posted in Environment, Housing, Street by street, Transport | Leave a comment